REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN HAITI
1. Given the critical situation of human rights persisting in Haiti, aggravated by the military coup of September 29, 1991, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has continued to assign priority to the country, and has been presenting a report on the situation of human rights in Haiti every year.
2. During this period, the Commission has repeatedly been asked by the Permanent Council and the Ad Hoc Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Organization of American States to conduct on-site visits to Haiti. It has also received requests from President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to visit the country. Unfortunately, each attempt taken by the Commission to organize such a visit to Haiti was either ignored or rejected by those who exercise power in Haiti. Finally, after President Aristide asked the Commission on July 6, 1993 to conduct an on-site investigation, on July 19, 1993, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, indicated a willingness to allow the Commission to visit the country.
3. The Commission conducted the visit from August 23 to 27, 1993. All of the information compiled by the Special Delegation pointed to a systematic pattern of human rights violations lodged against supporters of President Aristide by the military, the police and their collaborators. Most of the reported cases of extrajudicial executions and arbitrary, unlawful detention, (which were always accompanied by beatings and mistreatment), took place in the poor neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, where the vast majority of President Aristide's supporters live.
4. The Commission also observed that the number of human rights violations in rural areas had increased, especially in the Artibonite region and the Central Plateau. Witnesses interviewed by the IACHR Delegation testified to the repression they were suffering at the hands of the military, including the destruction of their homes. This has led to a mass displacement of people constantly fleeing the violence.
5. During the period covered by this report, human rights violations increased in Haiti, despite the signing of the Governors Island and New York Agreements. Such violations, which include extra-judicial executions; disappearances; arbitrary detention; torture; mistreatment; extortion; prohibition of the right of assembly and repression of the media, increased greatly in number. In the capital, violence by gunmen operating on the instructions of the Army has escalated. Assaults by zenglendos - gangs of gunmen trained by former members of the military - have contributed towards heightening the atmosphere of fear and insecurity among the population. Paramilitary groups called attachés, as well as the zenglendos, operate with full impunity. In the provinces, violations are being committed not only by section chiefs and their associates, but also by new "militia" recently created by the Army to continue the repression. Most of the violations have occurred in a political climate promoted by the armed forces in their efforts to remain in power.
6. In Chapter I, this report describes the activities carried out by the Commission as of December 1991 and its most recent visit to Haiti in August 1993. Chapter II reviews the political and legal system in Haiti, as established by the 1987 Constitution. Chapter III provides background information on the political developments in Haiti after the 1991 coup d'etat, and on the steps taken by the Organization of American States and the United Nations to facilitate a political dialogue between the parties concerned so as to bring about the return of President Aristide and the restoration of democracy to Haiti.
7. Chapter IV of the report analyzes the current human rights situation in Haiti. This report is based mainly on the testimony given by either the victims of human rights violations themselves or their family members during the last visit conducted by the Commission. Claims of violations of individual rights received at IACHR headquarters are similarly considered. Also included in this Chapter is the information presented by the OAS/UN Civilian Mission and documentation provided by a number of human rights groups working both inside and outside Haiti. Chapter IV additionally gives a brief description of the military structure in Haiti as background to the subsequent analysis of the various institutional factors contributing to the aggravation of the human rights situation in the country. In addition, a few of the many claims of human rights violations received by the Commission are illustrated. The last chapter of the report, Chapter 5, discusses the issue of Haitian refugees, the vast majority of whom seek asylum in the United States because of the critical situation they face in Haiti today.